The McPhee family appears to be quite passionate about creating not just an attraction to look at, but creating an experience for others.
The name Backroad Blooms may ring a bell, especially for those plant and succulent-lovers in Oakdale. Whether it be their appearances at the local farmers market or their farmstand next to the Oakdale Cheese Factory, the name has been blooming about Oakdale. Lisa and Alyssa McPhee have been doing their part to spread a bit of happiness and beauty throughout town.
Lisa’s husband, Jeff McPhee, an entrepreneur, is also trying his hand at a local beautification project.
His plan? Install the tallest flagpole in California locally right at the north entrance to town at the Rodden Road and Highway 120 intersection. Furthermore, he wants to construct a fruit stand for Oakdale High School students to sell the fruit and vegetables they grow on their school farm. These efforts have already received the support from many locals as he shares his plans.
“I’ve driven by that site every day for the last 25 years ... 60 cars in front of me, 60 behind me,” McPhee said of the intersection.
He noted that he’s seen trash and fires which have made the area “a really big eyesore.” He took the idea to City Manager Bryan Whitemyer, and soon the city did a clean-up project on the area.
McPhee’s hope is that the flagpole, rising over 200 feet into the air, will create a statement for Oakdale as “Home of California’s Tallest Flagpole.” He’s also hoping to be able to use it as an advertising platform not just for tourism but for local and nationwide events.
“The American flag always stands on top and then you honor other flags below,” he explained. He suggested putting up an Oakdale Mustangs flag for the Oakdale High School football team on Friday nights or putting up Mexico’s flag for Cinco de Mayo, and welcomes any other suggestions from the community.
With the 150th anniversary of Oakdale coming up, McPhee confirmed it would be great to have the flag up in a year. However, he’s only just recently cleared the first hurdle for the flagpole project. He hopes that, once Oakdale City Council meetings open for in-person public comment, they will appreciate his out-of-the-box thinking and approve the project.
“All you need to do is get someone to hit their brakes, stop and spend a little bit of time here,” he continued.
McPhee was also in conversation with tourism officials about the desire to get “anything to draw someone to Oakdale, get them to stop.”
Once the flagpole is up, McPhee doesn’t see it as the end of his efforts; rather, just the beginning. He said he’s familiar with promotional activities and hopes to create a Facebook page for the flag and put a camera on the ground. The aim is for people to stop and take photos with it and buy produce from the farmstand.
He also shared that building the stand “gets the community out there” and teaches high school students valuable skills.
McPhee, who graduated from Oakdale High School in 1988, didn’t go to college; rather, he pursued agriculture straight after graduation.
“Not every kid needs to go to college,” he said. “Tradesmen are the future for a lot of kids that graduate Oakdale High School.”
Currently, Oakdale High School’s farm utilizes 13 acres for almond production and 10 acres for other various crops. The proceeds from this potential endeavor would go to help fund the school’s farm, which could hopefully help make a name and brand for those who tend it. This would mean students could have their own foothold in the local agriculture market.
“It’s just a tremendous opportunity for our kids to sell products from the school farm in a retail situation,” Oakdale Joint Unified School District Superintendent Marc Malone shared. “Our students have the opportunity to be farm-to-fork or farm-to-retail ... it’s not just a growing process, it’s selling it.”
With the flagpole and farmstand donated by McPhee, it could truly mean big things for high school students who will not just learn from the farm’s growing process but gain experience in the retail aspect as well.
Along with his passion for the local high school, McPhee aims to bring Oakdale Veteran’s Association in the mix, if they’re willing, to help with the U.S. Flag Code. Moreover, he reiterated that flags only last for about three months so it would need to constantly be maintained.
“That was probably the biggest shocker to me,” he shared.